Live from HXD: What the Healthcare Industry Can Learn from Fish and Transition Design

What the Healthcare Industry Can Learn from Fish and Transition Design, by Cheryl Dahle

Cheryl works in the fishing industry. They found out that fish are being mislabeled, so they went to 8 locations to watch people sell fish, to understand the system.

  • Demand bullies supply (people have to lie about what fish they have in order to stay in business)
  • The way fish is sold disguises scarcity (you don’t know red snapper is endangered, because everyone sells it and you don’t know they’re lying, it’s not snapper)
  • The fish’s story is lost (the information about the fish is not tied to it)
  • Strong incentives exist for bad technology

Traceability Systems and Story

2 levers of change:

  1. Try to convince people that telling the story of the fish is important
  2. Maintain the information along the path

Donella Meadows says there are 9 places to intervene in a system. A few include:

  • Information flows – keeping content together along the path
  • Distribution of power over the rules
  • The power structure that creates the mindset around the system

Scaling to a NonProfit: The Future of Fish

So Cheryl and her team founded The Future of Fish, a nonprofit. They’re following a path called a “multi-level perspective” with 3 levels:

  • Niche – where to start, with individual activity
  • Regime – formal structures and processes
  • Landscape – social mores, beliefs, contextual shifts (where a lot of people try to start, but it doesn’t work)

The mission is to take powerful stories, like chef Barton Seaver serving bait (when nothing was caught), and scaling it. They published a cookbook of Seaver’s to start. Then they helped him build a consulting practice around sustainable fishing.

Transition Design

Individuals are steps along the way to milestones. We need to envision what the future will look like, and then set up the projects to move toward enabling conditions, behavior shifts, and ultimately a new mindset.

How do you do it?

  • Look at overlapping systems. We like to think in silos, but if you’re thinking about early education (for example), you’re also thinking about health, and childhood development, and supply chains.
  • Change the roles of designers to help facilitate information coming from actual participants. (Participatory design!)
  • Believe in possibility. It’s hard to know you may not see change for 5-10 years. But someone needs to keep the faith and see the potential of the individuals.

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